Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Europe wants too much to be like the US, believes Havel

Europe's politicians lack vision and its citizens are suffering from a general European wish to compete with the US rather than focus on "quality of life", says playwright and former president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel.

Mr Havel, who was a leading figure in Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution of 1989, believes that the EU lacks the visionary politicians that marked its beginnings directly after World War II and that it has now reached a "critical junction" in its development.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • "We should not force our ideas on anybody, we should only try and lead", says Mr Havel (l) (Photo: www.bundeskanzler.de)

Speaking at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Monday (10 May), the 68-year old outlined his view of European civilisation which he said now had a "double meaning".

On the one side, he argues, the EU is focussing on maximising production and finding new ways of communicating but at the same time "something very unpleasant is happening".

"We do not respect the country, we do not respect the environment", says Mr Havel, instead the EU "would like to be like the United States".

The Czech argues that as Europe originally "gave birth to a new type of civilisation", it should lead the debate about how it should develop.

Europe should be leading the reflection on what it started, says Mr Havel.

Short-term politicians

Mr Havel criticised the current batch of EU leaders for thinking too much in the short-term - to the next election.

Long-term thinking and a restructuring of values - which will "not necessarily be very popular" - is needed.

He said that there is a gap between the political elite who try to push forward the debate on European integration saying that citizens should identify with the EU as they do with "their families, towns, regions and countries".

And politicians should be "somebody other than a bureaucrat ... or an economist". They should be charismatic.

It is up to politicians to transmit Europe "to the citizen who doubts".

Stealing our identity ourselves

Responding to a remark by current Czech President Vaclav Klaus that joining the EU would mean that the Czech Republic would cease to exist as a separate entity, Mr Havel said "the only people who can steal our identity is ourselves".

"We, ourselves, the Czechs are doing that, not the European Union".

Mr Havel refused to typecast the European Union as a federation, or a confederation as this is "misleading".

"It is a new type of co-existence of states".

Opinion

Remembering Havel's dream

Twenty five years ago, violent repression of a student protest spurred a series of events in the then Czechoslovakia that we call the Velvet Revolution.

The new European Commission: what's next?

Informal interviews with von der Leyen, hearings with parliamentary committees, and votes in the EU parliament and Council await the 26 candidates.

Investigation

US billionaires funding EU culture war

Conservative US billionaires, some with links to Trump, are paying anti-abortion lobbyists in Europe tens of millions of dollars to shape policy and law.

News in Brief

  1. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  2. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving
  3. Trump's UK ambassador stirs up anti-EU feeling
  4. Brexit chaos is lesson to other EU states, ECB governor says
  5. EU condemns Israel's latest land grab
  6. Scotland to keep some laws aligned with EU after Brexit
  7. Spain to hold fresh election in November
  8. Turkey ups pressure on visa-free entry into EU

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. A new Commission for the one percent
  2. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  3. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  4. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  5. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  6. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission
  7. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  8. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us